LegalEdge: Learning from the Professionals: Applying advice from sports to the law


The practice of law, while less theatrical in some respects, shares many similarities with sports. Although attorneys do not maintain a formal outcome, they do compete for negotiating leverage, favorable judicial decisions and other positive outcomes for their clients. Lawyers can draw many useful lessons from our sporting heroes, and this article explores some of those lessons.

1. Purposeful practice

Considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Kobe Bryant was known for his incredible work ethic and dedication to coaching. The black mamba, as Bryant was known, gained a reputation for arriving at the gym before sunrise, sometimes at four or five in the morning. Practice should focus on expanding the limits of your current capabilities. Herein lies the improvement. As sports greats do, lawyers must practice and develop their skills to improve them every day.

2. Be adaptable

Going into the 1980 Olympics, the Soviet Union’s hockey team had won gold in every Olympic tournament since 1964. By adroitly adapting and adjusting their game plan to a more physical and aggressive style, the USA team pulled off one of the best goals. The Greatest Surprise in Sports History: The Ice Miracle. Whether it’s overtly combative or humble acceptance, many lawyers have only one approach. Adaptability allows a defender to adapt to circumstances and unpredictability. These skills can provide tremendous value to a client.

3. Be focused, not emotional

Tiger Woods won 15 major championships in his career, including five Masters titles, and in his prime was arguably the most dominant golfer of all time. Woods’ success is due in part to his ability to stay focused and avoid emotional distractions, even in the most stressful situations. Lawyers must also maintain focus on executing the plan and not allow emotions to influence judgment or execution. Lawyers often allow opposing counsel to lead to reckless decisions that are detrimental to their client’s goals.

4. Create a game plan

One of the most successful NFL football teams in recent history, the New England Patriots are known for their strategic style of play. Head coach Bill Belichick is known for his meticulous preparation and attention to detail, and the team has won six Super Bowl championships under his leadership. As with Belichick, lawyers must devise a versatile plan to achieve their clients’ goals, and they must prepare meticulously to execute that game plan.

5. Be a team player

The 2004 Detroit Pistons had few or no stars. In that year’s NBA Finals, the Pistons faced the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers, who had four future Hall of Fame members. Despite being underdogs, the Pistons defeated the Lakers in five games to win the championship, with their team-oriented play and defensive prowess being key factors in their success. Lawyers must be team players. Whether it’s providing value by completing a document review or bridging the gap when a colleague needs help, acting as a selfless team player can help produce great results.

6. Embrace the competition

Tennis legends Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have faced each other 40 times, and Nadal had little advantage in head-to-head. Their rivalry helped take both players to new heights and produced some of the most exciting matches in tennis history, including the 2008 Wimbledon final. Competition is healthy. It pushes people to improve and hone their skills. accept it; Don’t run away from it.

7. Failure is essential to progress

Michael Jordan is reported to have said, “I’ve missed over 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost nearly 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to hit the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over in my life. That’s why I succeed.” ” Early in my career, a mentor told me it was okay to make mistakes. But never make the same mistake twice. That stuck with me. Failure is inevitable, and often beneficial. Accept failure and see it as a gift that shows you where you need to improve.

There are many valuable lessons that can be learned from sports and applied to the practice of law and life in general. Through purposeful practice, the ability to adapt, stay focused, game plan and preparation, being a team player, embracing competition and valuing failure as a necessary part of growth, attorneys can improve their performance and achieve better outcomes for their clients.

Jake Evans is a Hall Booth Smith partner who practices complex commercial litigation and also serves as co-managing partner of the firm’s Alpharetta office.


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